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Keywords:

  • Arthritis;
  • Health care utilization;
  • Cost;
  • Longitudinal data

Abstract

Objective

To evaluate the effect of arthritis on subsequent 2-year use of health care services and out-of-pocket costs among older adults and determine if comorbidities or economic resources mitigate that effect.

Methods

Data were analyzed from 6,230 participants interviewed in 1993 and 1995 in the Asset and Health Dynamic Survey Among the Oldest Old (AHEAD), a national probability sample of community-dwelling adults. Baseline arthritis status was ascertained from the report of an arthritis-related physician's visit or a joint replacement not associated with a hip fracture. The effect of baseline arthritis on the odds of subsequent 2-year health care utilization and high out-of-pocket expenses were estimated from multiple logistic regression controlling for demographic factors, comorbidity, and economic resources.

Results

Older adults with arthritis are significantly more likely to have a physician visit (odds ratio [OR] 3.0), hospital admission (OR 1.6), outpatient surgery (OR 1.3), receive home health care (OR 1.6), and have out-of-pocket cost >$5,000 (OR 1.6) compared with contemporaries having similar demographics (age, sex, racial/ethnic group, marital status), comorbid conditions, and economic resources (education, income, wealth, health insurance), but not reporting arthritis.

Conclusions

Older adults with symptomatic arthritis reported greater medical utilization and cost compared with people not reporting arthritis. These disparities persisted after accounting for differences in demographics, comorbidities, and economic factors. These findings document greater economic burdens on a personal and societal level among people with arthritis. As individuals, older adults with arthritis spend more out-of-pocket dollars for health care than their contemporaries without arthritis. On a societal level, these findings of greater health care utilization among people with arthritis point to increasing future demands on the US health care system due to demographic increases in the numbers of older adults with arthritis and support policies aimed at improving arthritis prevention and treatment as well as reducing the economic disparities between those with and without arthritis.